Journal Article

BK-virus nephropathy in renal transplants—tubular necrosis, MHC-class II expression and rejection in a puzzling game

Volker Nickeleit, Hans H. Hirsch, Matthias Zeiler, Fred Gudat, Olivier Prince, Gilbert Thiel and Michael J. Mihatsch

in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation

Published on behalf of European Renal Association - European Dialysis and Transplant Assoc

Volume 15, issue 3, pages 324-332
Published in print March 2000 | ISSN: 0931-0509
Published online March 2000 | e-ISSN: 1460-2385 | DOI:
BK-virus nephropathy in renal transplants—tubular necrosis, MHC-class II expression and rejection in a puzzling game

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We review BK-virus nephropathy (BKN) as a new complication that increasingly affects renal allografts and causes dysfunction. Since starting in 1996, we have seen 11 cases. Currently, the prevalence of BKN is 3% in our graft biopsies. The diagnosis can only be made histologically. The virus affects tubular epithelial cells that show characteristic intranuclear inclusion bodies. The major reason for impaired graft function and a possible way for viral particles to gain access to the blood via peritubular capillaries is necrosis of infected epithelial cells. BK-virus DNA in the plasma, which can be detected by PCR, is closely associated with nephropathy. BK-virus does not stimulate tubular MHC-class II expression as judged by immunofluorescence double labelling. The inflammatory response is inconsistent and the frequency of rejection episodes is not increased during disease. Clinical manifestation of viral nephropathy evolves in several stages. (i) Initial, asymptomatic and reversible activation of the virus, judged by the presence of inclusion bearing cells in the urine. (ii) High dose immunosuppressive drug regimens, often including tacrolimus. (iii) Tubular injury and viraemia as additional promoting conditions. BKN nephropathy was associated with graft loss in 45% of our patients. The remaining patients with persistent viral nephropathy showed renal dysfunction (serum creatinine levels on average 150% above baseline readings). Currently, no established antiviral therapy is available. We discuss attempts to lower immunosuppression as a means to control viral replication. We propose a diagnostic algorithm for screening and monitoring the disease.

Keywords: BK-virus; histology; ICAM; kidney; MHC-class II; outcome; polyomavirus; rejection; transplantation

Journal Article.  5059 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Nephrology

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